The Battle for the Doctrine of God and a New Journal -- By: Paul R. House

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 01:1 (Spring 1997)
Article: The Battle for the Doctrine of God and a New Journal
Author: Paul R. House


The Battle for the Doctrine of God and a New Journal

Paul R. House

Paul R. House, editor of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, is Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author, editor, or co-editor of seven volumes, and has contributed several articles to journals and collections of essays.

American Christianity is currently locked in a struggle over the doctrine of God that in time may well make the battle for the Bible of the past twenty years look small in comparison. This conflict involves academicians, pastors, and lay persons. Its implications are far reaching for all denominations, and no group that ignores this theological issue will survive with its ecclesiastical integrity and doctrinal purity unscathed.

What is at stake? No less than an orthodox definition of God. For centuries Christians have agreed upon such biblical concepts as God’s sovereignty, omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. Believers generally assumed that members of other faith traditions were convinced that God does not change because God is inherently perfect and therefore not in need of alteration, evolution, or growth. Arminianism, Calvinism, Wesleyanism, and the denominations to which they gave birth disagreed over the particulars of these doctrinal convictions, of course, yet they did not forsake the foundational elements of historic Christian formulations of the doctrine of God.

To be sure, those committed to scriptural definitions of God battled aberrant theological traditions in the past. J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism (1923) argues that early twentieth-century Liberalism is not the Christianity set forth in the Bible. Though in a quite different way, obviously, Karl Barth likewise set aside Liberalism as authentic revelation-based Christianity in his Church Dogmatics. Carl F.H. Henry, G.E. Ladd, David Wells, Millard Erickson, W.C. Kaiser, Jr., and a host of other evangelical theologians have spent their academic careers working to keep American Christianity grounded in a biblically-based definition of God.

But now the definitional battles have shifted to new fields, and some adherents of new concepts of God have evangelical roots. Process theologians, postmodern-ists, and freewill theists now depict God as evolving into an ever-greater deity. Some deny that God knows all that will happen in the future, arguing that divine knowledge of contingent actions would make real human freedom impossible. Others conclude that salvation comes not solely through Christ, but also through other religions. In other words, texts such as Numbers 23:19, Psalm 90<...

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